West Michigan deputies sentenced to community service, $1,000 fines after inmate's death

Four West Michigan deputies were sentenced this week after pleading no contest to charges stemming from the death of an inmate in 2019.

Muskegon County Sgt. David Vanderlaan and deputies Jeffrey Patterson, Crystal Greve, and Jamal Lane were all charged with involuntary manslaughter – failure to perform a legal duty in connection with the death of Paul Bulthouse.

As part of their pleas, they were each sentenced to 100 hours of community service and must pay $1,000 in fines each.

Bulthouse, 39, was arrested by Norton Shores police on March 22, 2019, and brought to the Muskegon County Jail on a probation detainer.

Officials said Bulthouse was classified as suicidal. He was placed in a cell close to the booking center, where he was on camera at all times and was required to be monitored every 15 minutes for drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and mental health issues.

On April 4, 2019, he suffered about 18 visible seizures over a five-and-a-half-hour period, officials said.

Authorities said surveillance video showed Patterson, Greve, Lane, and Vanderlaan conducting quick, in-person checks into Bulthouse’s cell, as well as observing his cell through the closed-circuit monitor. At no point did any of the deputies attempt to ensure medical care, authorities said.

Around the time of deputy shift change at 6 a.m. April 4, Bulthouse was discovered lying unclothed on the floor of his jail cell in a pool of his own urine by a deputy not assigned to that floor.

Read more stories from around Michigan here.

According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, the sentences come after a lengthy preliminary examination, dozens of pretrial motions, a lack of cooperation from critical and necessary witnesses, and adverse rulings regarding key pieces of evidence. 

Nessel said allowing a settlement where the four accept responsibility ensures accountability for those responsible for the neglect of care to Bulthouse.

"I remain committed to protecting all residents of the State of Michigan, including those in the custody of law enforcement," Nessel said. "Every person deserves to be treated with care and dignity, and to have the sanctity of their life valued, and we are committed to ensuring that our laws and law enforcement officials reflect the highest standards."

Nessel said the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office have made changes since Bulthouse's death, which include instituting new policies to provide for better care and custody of those held in the jail. Muskegon County also changed its medical service provider for the treatment of its inmates. Additionally, the sheriff's office now requires all deputies to wear body cameras and microphones, including those deputies working inside the jail.